There's a beast in my house. She is angry, mean, unsympathetic, and I think she smells a little bit like tacos, and we all know that's a smell that is only appetizing on food. She follows me around everywhere I go, perched on my shoulder like a bird. Only, she not a delicate dove. This beast is more like an ostrich, invading every inch of my personal space with gangly legs wrapped around my chest, squeezing away my breath. Her enormous body weighs down my slumping shoulders, and there is not a moment of the day when I'm not acutely aware of the heaviness. My beast of burden. She's only visible to my eyes and a load only I can bear.
Some days this corpulent monster overpowers me, and I open my mouth to scream for help. However, when my lips part, feathers fill the cavity and I begin to suffocate a little. I fight for air and a savior to destroy this leech, but I just know somehow that if I was really able to express the thoughts. . . the feelings this beast drills into my mind, I would be misunderstood and judged. After all, no one can see her but me. This is a demon I must face alone.
So, trapped in a cage of solitude, I wrestle the beast. Some days I fight with passion and perseverance in the name of family and motherhood. But mostly I feel devoid of passion and tired of battle. This creature has been ignored, conversed with, pushed, screamed at, and probably fallen asleep on because exhaustion dictates my life. I've even coddled it, afraid of who I might be without the ghastly harpy. You see, it's been so long since I've seen just myself in the mirror that I've all but forgotten what I look like. And who I am. None of these tactics, however, have made the beast any smaller. She's actually growing.
She's a jealous thing, to add to her list of deplorable qualities, and it affects my relationships. I struggle to feel joy or compassion and often feel so hallow I can't connect with people like I once did effortlessly. When my husband comes home from work and all I want is to smother him in love and good food, the beast tightens her grip and almost forces the curtness that comes spewing from my mouth. Annie and Sam also fall victim to my uncontrollable moods. Whether it is staring at them blankly or locking myself in my room so I can scream in a pillow while that horrid monster pecks at my skull, they watch with horrified and confused glances. And for my sweet Sam, this is the only mother he's ever known. That thought is painful to the point of nauseam. No matter how hard I try to smile at his bright eyes and pretend that I'm enjoying the task of care-giving, deep inside that tiny body is the baby sensor which warns him of my disconnect. However, in fleeting moments he stares past me, and I think he may actually be able to see this invisible beast. After all, she was born on the same day as he.
And her name is Postpartum Depression.